According to the LA Times (click HERE) an appellate court ruled that “…Californians may use a cellphone to look at map applications while driving, even if apps are not hands-free.”
A driver from Fresno, CA had received a ticket for using his phone’s navigation system to find an alternative route around heavy traffic. He fought the $165 ticket and initially lost his bid to have the ticket dismissed. Fighting an uphill battle, he managed to get a sympathetic ear in superior court. From the article:
Attorneys for the state had argued the law, which prohibits “using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking,” outlaws any use of a phone that is “hands-on.”
The judges disagreed, writing that such a broad interpretation of the law would lead to “absurd results.”
“Then it would be a statutory violation for a driver to merely look at the telephone’s display,” they wrote in the 18-page opinion. “It would also be a violation to hold the telephone in one’s hand … and look at the time or even merely move it for use as a paperweight.”
Naturally, the key to vigilant driving is to avoid all sorts of distractions like eating, shaving, applying make-up or reading maps, etc. Distracted driving comes from three basic sources:
- Visual Distraction: anything that takes your eyes off the road while driving
- Physical Distraction: anything that takes your hands off of the wheel while driving
- Cognitive Distraction: anything that takes your mind off of your driving duties
The lesson in this instance is that while it may be legal to access apps on a hand held phone because the current law was written before phone apps existed (and was not described clearly to distinguish these as distractions) it doesn’t make it a good idea to fiddle with your hand held phone while driving.
In the same train of thought, it’s not a good idea to let your mind wander by listening to talk radio, but that’s also legal.
We each share a responsibility to drive with vigilance and discipline. There may be times when we are distracted momentarily, and sometimes those distractions are necessary (receiving hand signals from a police officer or construction flagger who is directing traffic may distract us from cross traffic, but it’s a matter of juggling our focus appropriately)…..Nonetheless, we should work hard to keep these instances to a bare minimum and keep our focus on the road.